WORKS: Piano Music for Four Hands; Sonata in F, K497; Sonata in C, K521; Andante & Variations in G, K501; Allegro & Andante (Fantasy) in F minor, K608
PERFORMER: George Malcolm, András Schiff (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 440 474-2 DDD
Mozart wrote his first piano duet – one of the earliest works of its kind – during his visit to London in 1764-5. Legend has it that the eight-year-old Wunderkind sat on JC Bach’s lap while they improvised at the keyboard together. Mozart returned to four-hands composition on several occasions during his mature years – indeed, his duet output is surpassed only by Schubert’s.
The grandest and most ambitious of Mozart’s duets is the Sonata in F, K497, a work weighty enough for Donald Francis Tovey to have included it alongside Mozart’s symphonies in his famous Essays in Musical Analysis. Equally imposing are the two Fantasies in F minor, originally intended for a mechanical organ housed in a clock; at the other end of the scale are the Variations in G, K501 – a perfect piece of intimate chamber music.
Sadly, Imogen Cooper and Anne Queffélec find no room for the Variations, though of these two discs of the late duets theirs is the one to own: playing of unfailing warmth and musicality which gets right to the heart of this wonderful music. András Schiff and George Malcolm, recorded on Mozart’s own fortepiano in Salzburg, take a rather more dramatic, not to say assertive, view. The two Fantasies are splendidly handled, but there is a hint of rhythmic unsteadiness in the F major Sonata’s virtuoso finale. Misha Donat